Considered the last word in Gallic sophistication when it opened in 1989, the Café Rouge brand is now as familiar a sight on the British high street as American burger joints and Italian pizza chains. Of course, if you’re taking a break from shopping at Cribbs Causeway – or you’re going to the Vue cinema or Hollywood Bowl - that familiarity is exactly what you want from an eating experience, with free parking thrown in, too.
In truth, there’s not much that’s exclusively French about the menu these days, which reads more like a Mediterranean greatest hits, though is no worse for that. Start with a ramekin of king prawns in garlic and smoked chilli butter, breaded whitebait with lemon and coriander mayo, that 90s favourite of breaded Camembert with cranberry sauce or, if you’re determined to eat something French, onion soup with croutons and melted cheese.
You’ll still find the famous steak and onion baguette on the menu (with Dijon not English mustard of course), as well as sandwiches filled with Camembert or chargrilled chicken, though the best sandwiches here are the croques Monsieur or Madame.
Steak proper comes as 5oz minute steak, an 8oz rump or sirloin or a black Angus burger. Otherwise, the classic dishes range from the Gallic likes of duck confit, poulet Breton, beef Bourgignon and moules frites to dishes which speak with a less overtly French accent: wild mushroom risotto or salmon with buttered veg, say. One thing you wouldn’t have found in 1989 is vegan options such as a spicy chickpea burger.
If you really want to live the French fantasy, Café Rouge opens for breakfast, when you can bring your copy of Le Monde to flick through over a café au lait and a croissant.
Good-value offers throughout the week include £5.95 for a burger and croque on Monday, two for one starters, mains and desserts on Wednesdays, or steak and wine for two for £24.99 a head.